Why do we care about carbon?


February 18th, 2011

In 2007 we committed Practical Action to the goal of cutting our overall carbon emissions by 25% by 2012. Why did we do this? Well, we saw that the impacts of climate change were already being felt around the world and that it was the poorest and most vulnerable people who were being affected first and who will suffer the most in the future.

We felt, given what we knew about climate change and its effect on the people we work with, we needed ourselves to make sure we did everything possible to limit our contribution to the problem and the damage it does to the lives of the people we seek to serve.  The target of a 25% reduction in our carbon footprint over five years was set based on the 5% annual reduction in carbon emissions we and others were advocating to the developed world governments at the time.

So how well are we doing? The short answer is not bad! Mainly through our efforts to reduce flights (but also vehicle travel, heating / air conditioning, electricity and paper usage across our operations) we have met or exceeded our target for the past two years. This has been a really amazing achievement when you realise that, since the start of this strategy, we have grown, in budget terms, by 25%. Carbon-wise we are now 40% more efficient, using 94.3 tonnes of carbon per £1 million spent this year, compared to 155.5 tonnes of carbon per £1 million spent in 2006/07. 

The real challenge comes next year however, the last year of our current strategy. The forecast for this year shows that our carbon footprint grew slightly over the past 12 months. If we are to meet the 25% goal in our strategy we will have to somehow halt this increase and stick at this year’s level of emissions.

Given that we expect our expenditure to go up again, this will not be easy.  We will have to plan more effectively to co-ordinate vehicle trips and question every flight to make sure it is absolutely necessary. Our 2012 carbon target is absolutely achievable, but it will require commitment and effort from all of us.  It will be difficult, but if Practical Action – an organisation actively working on climate change – cannot rise to this challenge, then who can?

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